Are you the type of person who always goes to the bathroom "just in case" before you leave the house, take your seat in the theater, or even just settle down to watch your favorite TV show?
Well, you're not alone — there are plenty of people out there who regularly empty their bladders even when they don't need to, and apparently, doing so is bad news for our health: Anne Henderson, a consultant gynecologist at Nuada Medical in London, says going to the toilet when you don't really need to can lead to bladder issues in the long-term.
As Henderson explains, the involuntary nervous system and the voluntary motor system work together to keep tight control over when we empty our bladders.
"Much of our bladder function represents learned behavior," Henderson says. "For example, once a pattern is set during potty training, this becomes second nature, and the body's various nerve pathways carry on this process without our conscious action."
However, she says, this can work both ways — which means poor bladder habits can be equally easy to develop.
"A new, faulty pattern can replace the existing healthy one, and the bladder effectively malfunctions," she adds. "One very common example of this is when women habitually empty their bladders before full capacity — around 500 milliliters — has been reached, often due to fears about urgency or incontinence and whether or not a [bathroom] will be available when it's needed. New nerve pathways then become engrained and, in some cases, the bladder becomes unable to fill to its usual capacity, which compounds the problem even more."
Essentially, it's a vicious cycle — once your bladder gets used to being emptied at a certain point of fullness, that could eventually become the norm for you. Although there are ways to deal with this — Henderson recommends bladder drill techniques or seeking out advice from a specialist continence nurse practitioner or uro-gynecologist if you're having problems — prevention is easier than finding a cure, so try to avoid the "just in case" bathroom trips as much as you can!